Poe's Stories

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Themes and Colors
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Poe's Stories, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

In his stories, Poe creates a narrator faced with some kind of antagonistic person or force—a rival—that propels the plot of the story. In M.S. Found in a Bottle, the antagonist is both the supernatural weather and the strange breed of men on the ship. In The Black Cat, the rival takes the form of a cat, which seems to have a sixth sense for the narrator’s anxiety. Often the source…

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In each story, it is the threat of death that pulls the plot along and that creates the suspense that Poe's stories are famous for. In The Pit and the Pendulum, the expectation of death, first by hanging, then with the pendulum, then into the pit, forces the narrator to confront his own mortality time and time again. In The Masque of the Red Death, death is personified and hangs over the story…

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Originating in 18th Century England, Gothic Literature was an important and distinctive movement in literary history, with a body of definite themes and symbols that has grown and changed as the genre has spread across the world and across time. But some core aspects remain definitive of the Gothic style, including: Gloomy settings like castles, dungeons, prisons and vaults; haunting figures, ghostly and somewhat unreal; symbols and colors that suggest the gory and supernatural…

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While many of Poe's characters are married, and others are often visiting with friends or acquaintances, the overriding sense of Poe’s stories is one of loneliness and solitude. Each story leaves the character alone to face his destiny, fear, pain, or crime by himself. In The Pit and the Pendulum, the narrator is alone in a cell and describing each encounter with mortal terror—he exists in the cell solely with death. In M.S. Found

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Many of Poe’s narrators tell stories that have already happened. Often, the difference between the situation of the narrator now, and the narrator then, is profound. For example, the narrator of The Black Cat begins what seems to be a domestic story about his pets, but it soon becomes clear that, as a result of the events of the story, the narrator is now in jail. This forewarning of the consequences of the tale provides…

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